Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day to honor, empower, and celebrate trans and nonbinary folks across the globe. To be honest, the last thing I want to spend my energy on today is trying to convince anyone to support and respect my right to exist. Like it or not, even before I had the language to describe my identity, I was nonbinary.
I grew up in Oklahoma – a deep red state – in a conservative Christian home. Although we didn’t name it as such, I was allowed to socially transition as a kid. In the 90’s, we called it being a “tomboy” and it essentially worked like this, when my older brother, Max, got a football helmet and shoulder pads for Christmas, you better believe I got a matching set so we could practice our routes in the backyard. If Max was rockin’ a sick pair of JNCOs, I was rockin’ a sick pair of JNCOs. My weekends were filled with sports, playing outside in the mud, building forts, and romping around. Fueled by love, my parents unconsciously loosened the binary of gender norms to let me be me.
Like many of us, the bliss of my childhood came to a screeching halt when I hit puberty. Pressured by social norms, I started wearing makeup and swapped my gym shorts for a pleated skirt. Mind you, the year is 2001, and I’m in Oklahoma, so I didn’t have the language to describe the dysphoria I experienced as I tried my best to perform the female gender and fit in. My athleticism and (dare I say) charisma served as an external armor for my internal suffering. Socially and academically, I thrived. Psychologically, I plummeted. Throughout high school and into my twenties, I experienced extreme anxiety, panic attacks, clinical depression, suicidal ideation, substance abuse, and insomnia as I tried to make my mind align with what society told me I was – a teenage girl who soon would become a woman.
Fast forward to 2017, I’m sitting in a Queer Theory class as the professor breaks down the harmful impacts of gender-essentialism. A veil was lifted and my brain started to make sense. The constant feeling of dissonance, the incongruence between my body and my sense of self, the discomfort, the frustration, the crawling out of my skin sensation… I’m nonbinary!
It’s painful for me to reflect on my teenage years, knowing now what I didn’t know then. As anti-trans legislation skyrockets, some days I would rather hide than fight for our future. Advocating to be seen and accepted takes courage, and I am so grateful for Trans advocates such as @alokvmenon, @chasestrangio, @thechrismosier who work tirelessly to keep us updated on the latest anti-trans legislation threatening access to health care and our safety. If you don’t follow them, you should.